Vitamin D food fortification in European countries: the underused potential to prevent cancer deaths

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Background: Meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials have shown that vitamin D supplementation reduces cancer mortality by 13%. Vitamin D fortification of foods may increase vitamin D levels in a similar manner as vitamin D supplementation and could achieve similar reductions in cancer mortality. Whereas some European countries already implemented widespread fortification of foods with vitamin D, in other countries only few or no foods are fortified. In this study, we estimated the reduction in cancer mortality presumably already achieved by current fortification policies in 2017 and the potential for further reductions if all countries had effective fortification. Methods: We reviewed scientific literature, publicly available information, and contacted health authorities to obtain information on current vitamin D food fortification policies in 34 European countries. Together with country-specific cancer death statistics from Eurostat, information on life expectancy, and country-specific fortification policies, we used data from studies on supplementation and serum 25(OH)D increases and cancer mortality to estimate numbers of probably already prevented cancer deaths and numbers of potentially further preventable deaths and years of life lost. Results: Current vitamin D fortification is estimated to prevent approximately 11,000 in the European Union and 27,000 cancer deaths in all European countries considered per year. If all countries considered here would implement adequate vitamin D fortification of foods, an estimated additional 129,000 cancer deaths (113,000 in the European Union) could be prevented, corresponding to almost 1.2 million prevented years of life lost (1.0 million in the EU) or approximately 9% of cancer deaths (10% in the EU). Interpretation: Systematic fortification of foods might considerably reduce the burden of cancer deaths in Europe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-320
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Cancer mortality
  • Fortification
  • Prevention
  • Vitamin D

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